Summer Pizza Taste Test: Pizza Hut vs Little Caesar's vs Papa John's vs Dominos
Pizza has been my indulgent pleasure since I was in my mother's womb. I've probably eaten enough pizza to put some Italians to shame so I kind of pride myself on picking a good pie. Being a college student I've lived off of frozen pizzas for the past few years. Tombstones, Frechettas, Jacks', Tonys. Archer Farms' and Digiornos have left me wanting for something a little different so during my summer vacation I've decided to test the "Big 4" of pizza chains. Some I've had before, others I haven't. I'm hoping to offer up my opinions on the options and the overall quality of each place so to help others in their decisions on what to order on those desperate hungry nights. At each restaurant I ordered the same thing, 2 large cheese pizzas and an order of cheese sticks or breadsticks. (I didn't eat all of it myself...)
First up is a place I've eaten at since I was a child, Pizza Hut. Here I ordered 1 large hand-tossed pizza, 1 thin crust pizza, 1 order of cheesesticks and 1 order of breadsticks. First off is the hand-tossed pizza. The sauce here had a rather delicious, tangy tomato sauce covered in even more delicious cheese. There was just enough cheese and sauce to be satisfying. The dough was warm, soft and had a slight buttery taste and was absolutely mouth-watering. The thin crust, on the other hand, left a little to be desired. The cheese here tasted just as good as the hand-tosses but in lesser quantity while the sauce was less tangy and there was less of it. One thing on the menu that I've always loved at Pizza Hut are the sensuous garlic breadsticks. Here I got 5 sticks and each were soft, buttery and littered with the perfect amount of garlic crumbs. The marinara dipping sauce compliments the breadsticks beautifully. The cheesesticks are also good as well and come with the same marinara sauce. I got five of these also and I was expecting just strings of cheese that tastes like the cheese found on the pizza but it didn't. These sticks had a very unique taste and were toasted to perfection. Suffice to say these did not last long. Looking at the menu there isn't that large of a selection. You can get calzones, buffalo wings and pastas but not much else. Another great thingabout the pizzas here is that even when reheated in a microwave they still maintain a great taste while the breadsticks tend to harden up a little.
Pizza Hut was very satisfying at a competitive price. The thin crust was lacking but the sides and the hand-tossed were extremely delicious. I would replace the thin crust next time with a pan pizza. The service was relatively quick, about 4 minutes and the workers were courteous. I highly recommend.
Order total: $28.95
Next up is the "master" of Hot N' Ready, Little Caesar's. I've eaten here religiously over the past few years since it's cheap and close by. Here I got 2 large(Hot N' Ready) cheese pizzas and an order of breadsticks. The pizza here left much to be desired but I guess you get what you pay for. The sauce had little taste to it and the cheese was undercooked and chunky. The crust of the pizza was a little overcooked, though, but the various flavors sprinkled on the bottom helped to mask the burnt dough. Overall it really tasted like the $5 I paid and it was handed to me off of a shelf which means it was probably sitting for awhile before I bought it. Ready? yes. Hot? no. The breadsticks or Crazy Bread rather were a lot different than the other places. These, which I got 8 of in a single order, were soft pieces of bread drenched in a buttery sauce. While these were messy they were also a delicious guilty pleasure. These sticks managed to be very soft but didn't taste like they were undercooked which was surprising. The marinara sauce which you have to ask for and pay extra was very good but was served cold. The sauce helped mask some of the pizza's lacking flavor when dipped into. To see the full menu I had to check online since none was visible at the store. There is a very little selection here and most of the options, like cheesesticks, are only available at certain locations. When you order here, though, make you you only get what you can eat at that moment because I highly advise against reheating this pizza. It ends up with a plastic-like texture to the cheese and the dough has a very odd taste to it.
Little Caesar's left a lot to be desired with their cheese pizza but on the flip side it only costs $5 for a pizza larger than that of the other 3 restaurants. The Crazy Bread looked unappealing but was very delicious. I'd say if you wanted something fast and cheap and aren't too worried about it being the best tasting pizza then you're set.
I've had Papa John's one time in my life and that was over 8 years ago. Here I got 1 large "regular" crust cheese pizza, 1 thin crust cheese pizza and an order of cheesesticks. The size of the pizzas were comparable to that of Pizza Hut's and each came with 2 dipping sauces: a garlic sauce and a marinara sauce. The garlic sauce was a little strong for my tastes but the marinara was delicious. It had a little tang to it and wasn't overly thick even though it looked like it was. Both pizzas tasted very similar just that with the thin crust there was less of it. The crust on the bottom of the thin crust was overdone but on the regular crust it was cooked right. It wasn't soft and buttery like Pizza Hut's but more firm like a well-cooked frozen pizza. The cheese on the pizzas had a mediocre taste to it which led me to believe that these are best enjoyed with the dipping sauces which is a shame because you only get 1 cup of each sauce with not much in it and if you're sharing with others then you're SOL. The cheesesticks here are comparable to Pizza Hut's but not as satisfying. These are a little more well-done than Pizza Hut's and lack that mouth watering taste of the mentioned. These sticks, which there were 6 of, came with the same dipping sauces as the pizza and worked well with the sticks.
Papa John's, to me, seemed like Pizza Hut lite. Their menus are rather similar and the tastes are close to that of the Hut's if not a little less satisfactory. The service was prompt and courteous and the price was OK for what I got.
The final chain of these fantastic four is one that I had never had before, Dominos.Sorry for no pizza image but the image uploader kept giving me errors. I had always heard from friends and family that Dominos tasted like cardboard with ketchup poured on it but that was before their drastic overhaul some years back so I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. Here I ordered 1 large hand-tossed cheese, 1 large thin crust cheese and an order of cheese breadsticks. I must say first off that the service here was amazing. I was in and out within 30 seconds. First off was the thin crust pizza and the best thing I can compare it to is Jack's cheese pizzas which you can find at a grocery store for a third of the price. Everything on the pizza was cooked right but just didn't have much to be desired. The hand-tossed was great however. The crust was crisp and the cheese was delicious. The main problem here was the lack of sauce. I looked at a piece after biting into it and could only see cheese melded to the crust. MY suggestion: order with extra sauce. The cheesesticks here were assembled more like a piece of cheese bread that had to be torn apart. Again these had a taste similar to Papa John's in that they were inferior versions of Pizza Hut's. They were crispy and Ok for what you pay for though they quantity here is less than that of the other three. The dipping sauce here was a marinara which was very good and very similar to Papa John's in that it looked thick but was actually rather creamy.
I'd say that while Papa John's was Pizza Hut lite, Dominos would be Papa John's lite. The tastes here are very similar and the price is comparable as well. What Dominos really surprised me with, though, is their astounding menu selection. They have bread bowl pastas, endless pizza cheese, sauce and topping options as well as some desserts. I will definitely try again because of this great selection and look forward to trying a cheese with marinara sauce in place of the tomato sauce. If you want something closer and cheaper than Papa's or the Hut then definitely give Dominos a shot. It's come a long way from cardboard and ketchup.
In the end this is entirely my opinion but overall I was most satisfied with Pizza Hut. Their options aren't the best but the taste is almost sexual. The price can be a little steep but you get enough to last you a few days.
Best flavor: Pizza Hut
Best value: Little Caesar's
Best Options: Dominos